Breaks preview feature

Today marks the beginning of the first official Hip-Hop Week MKE. A slew of events will take place across Milwaukee, touching on all aspects of hip-hop culture, plus health, wellness, finance and film. It will feature performances from local stars like IshDARR, Munch Lauren, Pizzle, and Baby Drew, as well as talks from Rico Love, Masta Ace, Manaan Sabir, DJ Doc B, the Godfather of hip-hop DJ Kool Herc, and more.

Two members of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan will appear in Milwaukee for Hip-Hop Week MKE. This Friday, August 24, Ghostface Killah will play The Rave. The next night, the RZA will perform a live re-scoring of the kung-fu classic “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” at the newly renovated Oriental Theatre.

For hip-hop fans who want to see the entire Wu-Tang Clan live, the Staten Island group will headline The Breaks Vol. II in Chicago on Saturday, September 8. Wu-Tang Clan is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of its iconic debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and have a new release on the way.

The Breaks Vol. II will also feature Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Vic Mensa, Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Twista, and more. Last year’s inaugural event featured Tech N9ne, Method Man & Redman, Slaughterhouse, and Immortal Technique, who will be headlining a pre-party on September 7 at Joe’s on Weed Street in Chicago.

The Breaks hearkens back to the beloved Rock the Bells festival, which started in Southern California and eventually toured internationally as part of a decade long run (2004-2013). Both festivals have a well curated lineup of respected hip-hop artists, plus up-and-coming talent. The comparison is especially apt this year, considering Wu-Tang Clan was a regular headliner of Rock the Bells.

“It’s a compliment if anything,” The Breaks co-founder Chris Figgy tells me over the phone. “I’ll take it all day.”

Chris Triebes is Figgy’s partner in organizing The Breaks festival. Both Figgy and Triebes started their careers in music playing in bands, with Figgy’s being signed to My Chemical Romance’s independent record label in the 2000s.

“I was able to tour with them and they were able to get us on music festivals around the country, so I got a lot of experience from that,” says Figgy.

Triebes and Figgy met while producing shows in Chicago and have worked together for years. When a financier approached Figgy about producing a hip-hop festival, he quickly sold Triebes on the idea.

“We put the first festival together kind of quick,” says Triebes. “We wanted certain niche groups rather than a more general feel. We believed that was a better way to go about it being new and underground, because those fan bases are so hardcore. It’s the same with Wu-Tang and so far we’ve had a lot of enthusiasm for this year’s lineup.”

In addition to icons like Wu-Tang Clan and Yasiin Bey, The Breaks will feature Chicago artists with a national following like Vic Mensa and Twista, plus the buzzed about group Hurt Everybody.

The Breaks Vol. II will also include stunts by MTV’s “Too Stupid to Die” (described as “the new Jackass”), hip-hop dancers, live graffiti, DJ mixes, a vendor area with a barbershop and clothing featuring Wu-Wear X The Breaks exclusives.

It all goes down Saturday, September 8, in the east parking lot outside Toyota Park. That reminds me of another venerated Midwest hip-hop festival: Soundset produced by Twin Cities independent record label Rhymesayers, which started in the parking lot of the (bygone) Metrodome.

Tickets for The Breaks Vol. II range from $65 for general admission to a $750 “Ultimate Fan Experience” and can be purchased here.

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